A literature search is a systematic and comprehensive search for information.
The information you search for will inform, underpin and /or shape your research. It will enable you to find out what has already been written in your subject area and enable you to identify the main trends.
The information can be contained in books, journal articles, reports, case studies, policy documents, conference proceedings etc.
Before you start your literature search use the worksheet below to plan what you are going to do.
Planning your literature search in this way should help you work in a more systematic fashion and will provide you with a record of what you have done for when you write up your research methods.
You will need to read and review what other people have written about your subject area for three of reasons:
(1) You need to set the work you have done into context.
(2) You need to show why you are doing this particular project – why did this work need to be done? How does this work fit into the other work that has been done? Why is it interesting? Who would like to know the results?
(3) It can also be helpful to look around the problem for helpful ideas, and compare your work to prior research.
A literature search needs to be systematic and focussed. It must also be evaluative – you need to critically evaluate each reference you find to determine if it is worth pursuing.